We all spend a good deal of valuable time in meetings.
But while there will always be a need to get together with others to discuss problems, share information, exchange ideas and come to decisions, for many people, the prospect of going to a meeting makes their hearts sink.
- Be absolutely clear what the meeting is for: Think through the precise objectives of the meeting in advance – what do you intend to achieve? Always bear in mind that they are expensive in terms of time and lost opportunity costs. Decide on whether the meeting is needed at all. What would be the consequence if you didn’t hold it? Think about whether you could you achieve the same objective by sending an email or making a call.
- Ensure that everyone knows what the meeting is intended to achieve: Decide who needs to attend and whether they need to be there in person or online. Tell those who are attending what is to be discussed and why. Decide upon and obtain any information required for the meeting and ensure any advance work is completed.
- Set an agenda: Your agenda should be a brief that others can work from. Specify exactly what you mean by each item on the agenda in order to avoid confusion. Arrange the agenda in a logical order. Allow a suitable amount of time for each subject. Distinguish between urgent and important items and don’t let the former take up too much time.
- Control the discussion: Structure discussions so that evidence comes before interpretation and interpretation comes before decisions. Keep each stage separate. Stop people from jumping to the next stage or going back over old ground. Keep to the point and stay within the allocated time for each topic. Look for the positive in everyone’s ideas. Conflict is a healthy consequence of group dynamics, but don’t let it get out of hand and become a personal attack. If you anticipate conflict, prepare for it and focus on the problem not the personalities.
- Record decisions and action points: Ideally, someone other than the chairperson should take minutes. Summarise all decisions and record them straight away with the name of the person responsible for any action. Email the minutes to everyone involved.